The top officers of Toyota and BMW this morning announced a long-term collaboration in four technical areas, including materials lightweighting, to improve the efficiency of cars. The other goals of the effort are: joint development of a fuel cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle, and collaboration on powertrain electrification.
BMW’s Norbert Reithofer said: “We aim to further strengthen our competitive position in sustainable future technologies. We signed a memorandum of understanding to this effect
today. Toyota and the BMW Group share the same strategic vision of sustainable individual future mobility. Together we have a great opportunity to continue leading our industry through this transformation.”
Toytota’s Toyoda added: “BMW and Toyota both want to make ever-better cars. We respect each other. And I think this is shown by our taking the next step only six months since the signing of our initial agreement. Toyota is strong in environment-friendly hybrids and fuel cells. On the other hand, I believe BMW’s strength is in developing sports cars.”
Expect carbon fiber composites to be an important part of the project. BMW has been a leader in use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic components on high-end cars. It operates SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture with SGL Group, which last year opened a plant in Moses Lake, WA, to produce carbon fiber for use in BMW’s iSeries vehicles—the first–ever production car with a passenger cockpit made from carbon composites. The Lake Moses plant will supply fiber to a composite assembly plant in Wackersdorf, Germany, which will supply components to two i3 assembly plants in Europe. BMW also bought 16% of SGL’s outstanding stock.
Toyota has a similarly strong interest in the future of carbon composites and doesn’t want to spend the money and the time reinventing the wheel. So it is apparently willing to share some of its technology in other areas, such as hydrogen fuel cells, in order to get a leg up. Toyota also brings to the table an opportunity for a very large volume scale-up of the technology.